This ought to shut them up. Some critics haven't been kind to Alvin Youngblood Hart ever since they employed their heaviest hyperbole in praise of Hart's 1996 debut Big Mama's Door. Hart, it seems, has had the audacity to stray from the down-home, all-acoustic blues of that first album. Territory, his follow-up, not only added electricity, but delved into Latin, Western swing, Cajun, and reggae. He even covered a Captain Beefheart song. Then, in 2000, he did the unthinkable, going entirely electric on Start With the Soul.
Well, all you naysayers, are you happy now? Down in the Alley, Hart's latest, is acoustic front to back, though in more of the Piedmont style than the Delta blues favored on Big Mama's Door. Strains of Leadbelly, Willie McTell, Mississippi John Hurt, and Fred McDowell run through it, just like Charlie Patton and Bukka White did on Big Mama. But Hart is one of those people who can pick up any instrument with strings and master it in the time it takes to drive from Parchman Farm to Beale Street. A return to his roots? Hart doesn't have roots. He has music. Try not to pigeonhole it. Just enjoy.